Apple aims to disable texting while driving

Several mobile apps on the market already try to prevent you from texting while driving, but a freshly-published Apple patent filing suggests a more automated solution.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Photograph of a fatal texting-while-driving car crash shown in a scene from a Werner Herzog documentary. Screenshot by Joan E. Solsman/CNET

Despite the dangers of texting while driving, many behind the wheel just can't seem to stop. One idea from Apple could put up more of a roadblock.

Published on Tuesday by the US Patent and Trademark Office, an Apple patent called "Driver handheld computing device lock-out" proposes a couple of different ways to cut off texting and other cell phone features while you're driving.

In one scenario, Apple's technology would work on its own by detecting the motion of the driver and/or analyzing the surrounding scenery. The motion detector would use the phone's onboard sensors to tell if the car is moving beyond a certain speed. The scenery analyzer would use the phone's camera to determine if the phone is being held by the driver.

If a red flag goes up, a lock-out mechanism would then automatically disable texting and other functions of the phone.

In a second scenario, your car would essentially tell your phone when it's time to be quiet. After you start your car, your ignition key would send a signal to your phone to disable texting and other features.

The first scenario sounds more complicated but may be more doable as it would rely solely on technology built into the phone. The second scenario sounds simpler but would require the involvement of automakers. Either way, a patent filing doesn't mean the technology will ever hit the real world.

Still, Apple is trying to integrate itself more into your automobile as evidenced by its CarPlay system. Technology that specifically focuses on the dangers of distracted driving would be an ideal next step.

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In the meantime, you can find several mobile apps that try to address the problem of distracted driving. An app called DriveSafe.ly reads your text messages and emails to you while you're behind the wheel. AT&T's DriveMode app can send an auto response to any text you receive while driving. And an app called Textecution offers parental controls that can disable texting while driving.

(Via AppleInsider)